My first deep introduction to over the top social satire was “Network”, the 1976 blockbuster that presaged Fox News and the news media as we know it now. Then, the genre satire failed to reach a wide swath of the viewers – seeming to be another film that made no sense, that was just too unrealistic or pointless.
Still, “Network” was a straight forward depiction of industrial and social trends in a completely recognizable setting.
“This is the End”, the new film by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, is social satire that is over the top in a whole new way.
Admittedly, “This is the End” doesn’t initially present itself as social savagery, and is a movie which would normally not appeal to me. However, a promise of free preview passes from Gofobo and an empty evening prompted me to head to the border of Houston’s space/time continuum, sit in a long line of people half of my age until we were admitted (sans cell phones, iPads or anything with a camera. Enforced by pre-9/11 airport security procedures) into a “sold” out house.
I knew who James Franco is. I sort of knew who Seth Rogan is. The rest of the cast was not known to me, but I persuaded Chuck to saddle up the Volt and attend with me.
My sister has long asserted that movie previews that seem compelling have already revealed their entire value to you. Just this moment, a television advertisement for this film appeared during my time shifted viewing of last night’s “The Daily Show”. The trailers give only a hint into what you’re going to experience.
The experience? Probably not for someone who just enrolled in AARP. References to celebrities, films and events that are foreign to me were liberally peppered into a hash of homo-eroticism, outright idiocy, summer block buster blowing up/slashing/terror.
SPOILER STARTS HERE
The film’s premise is founded in a universal experience of the Rapture/End of Days. Of the group of friends, all over the top compensating for a lack of friendship substance with declarations of loyalty and affection, only Rogan’s childhood friend recognizes the “signs” of this Biblical horror.
Substantially all of the group’s “friends” are sucked into a raging, angry hole into the core of the planet; the group survives in James Franco’s version of Xanadu on a case of bottled water, several points of illicit drugs and a Milky Way bar while terror reigns all around them. Rather than taking action to preserve themselves during Armageddon, these Gen Y-ers “wait for rescue” with movie props as defensive weapons.
From the point of the Rapture, the film progresses through levels of ridiculousness that would put off most of the story’s intended consumers of the background message. By way of example, my own experience of the film was characterized by revulsion, annoyance and flashes of amusement until an hour later when I was thinking about the film over dinner.
Even during the film event, the endless parodies of a wide range of horror films were clear. Well done, never over done. For most, there were quick singles touching on signal elements of films from “The Shining” to “The Exorcist”. The vapidity of celebrity-centric culture was savage and repeated – even the principal characters acknowledge that they’ve never done anything of actual value for the world. Humans engaged in endless back stabbing instead of working together was another frequent theme, albeit not a new theme in modern post-apocryphal stories.
I couldn’t quite understand the endless, straight faced delivery of homoerotic jokes and banter until well into my post-film dinner. The homoeroticsm is the vehicle for ripping Old Testament belief structures to shreds. Let’s face it, the stories in the Old Testament are quite phallu-centric, as are most ancient belief structures. The Penis is portrayed in pre-civilization as the ultimate power, the ultimate weapon of both creation and destruction, and in our well informed civilization, the broad sweep of people maintain this duality as to phallic relationship. Homosexuality is presented as evidence of being antagonistic to the greater good and to God, and yet penis worship is rampant.
Yeah, I know. I intended that.
By littering this film’s story and imagery with penis references every few seconds, this bizarre social belief in both Christian religion, Old Testament stories and the power of the penis is ripped to shreds by the savage intellect of Rogan and Goldberg. By framing this up within a cast of characters whose sex lives are more important to the common Man than is climate change, genetic modification of food, or corporate theft, that inane focus comes in for a second helping of derision. And then, by the very few who can see these elements on screen experiencing those around them cheering when the “God team” wins one, the utter blindness of Everyman is laid bare.
As a side note, seeing Channing Tatum as a sex slave was a significant cherry on top of this double helping of sarcasm and satire.
Is this what Rogan and his team intended? Or, was this just supposed to be a ridiculous, modern day Blues Brothers romp? The production and story team leave that decision up to the individual viewer and for everyone’s benefit.